1. A greater proportion of students took vegetable servings in their school cafeteria after being exposed to positive marketing of vegetables, compared to those with no exposure.
2. While both boys and girls responded to the marketing campaign, a greater proportion of girls increased their vegetable servings compared with boys.
Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)
Study Rundown: The US Department of Agriculture, via the recently updated National School Lunch Program, has required participating schools to increase servings of vegetables in school lunches. However, children continue to receive fewer than the recommended daily serving of vegetables. This study builds upon previous research and explores the effects of implementing marketing tactics to increase students’ vegetable consumption in school cafeterias. Cafeterias were divided into 4 categories: control, banner advertising, TV advertising, and both. Food logs were used to calculate servings taken, and volunteers observed and counted student use of salad bars. Almost double the amount of students took from the salad bar when exposed to only a vinyl banner advertisement, while exposure to both TV and banner advertising tripled the amount of students at the salad bar. Only schools with both advertising methods had a statistically significant increase in daily vegetable and salad servings, as indicated by food logs. More girls used the salad bar when exposed to either the vinyl banner advertisement, or both TV and banner, compared with boys. While this study indicates a role for advertisement in improving food choices that may be translatable to public policy, generalizability is limited by the narrow geography of the study population.
Study Author, Dr. Drew Hanks, PhD, talks to 2 Minute Medicine: Ohio State University, Department of Human Sciences
“When used strategically, marketing techniques can be used in a powerful way for the public good. Instead of fighting against marketing, leveraging its insights can be beneficial.”
In-Depth [prospective cohort]: This study included 10 elementary schools from a large urban northeastern school district. Schools were divided into control groups with no advertising, those that received vinyl banner advertising only or TV advertising only, and a group that received both. Advertising was created by an independently contracted company. Data collection included analysis of school-kept food records logging the number of servings taken and number of children receiving lunch. Manual counts of boys and girls using the salad bar were collected by trained researchers during randomly scheduled visits to 1 school from each treatment or control group. Using food preparation records, there was an increase from 60 to 185 average daily vegetable servings taken by students in the banner-only group (P = .028). The other 2 treatment groups showed an increase in vegetable servings that was not statistically signficant. Count data showed an increase from 12.6% to 24% of students taking vegetables from the salad bar in the banner-only group (P = .04) while the TV and banner group showed an increase from 10.2% to 34.6% ( P < .001). More girls took vegetables from the salad bar in banner-only schools (42 to 95, P = .02) and TV and banner schools (35 to 126, P < .001). More boys took vegetables from banner-only schools (25 to 66, P = .01), yet fewer boys overall took vegetables, compared to girls.
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